PHOTOS FROM HARMONY HARVESTING LLC Facebook page
Harmony Harvesting will be driving their equipment on the roads again soon.
By the numbers
* 20 ton: the average load weight
* 700-900 gallon: how much diesel fuel they use a day
* 2200: how many dairy cows they help feed
* 22,000: an average of many gallons of milk these cows provide each day
By JACQUI L. HERSHBERGER
Wayne County is known for its agriculture. Fields organize the landscape and give residents and visitors stunning views. Milk that consumers drink in Wayne County and beyond comes from cows fed on crops that are grown on Wayne County farms. Even the design of the front of the Dalton Elementary & Middle School building with its rowed natural-colored hues is inspired by the look of local fields from an aerial view.
As spring weather becomes pleasant and fields need worked, more farm equipment will be on the roads.
Harmony Harvesting is one of the local companies that plants and harvests acres of crops for local dairy farmers. Based in Kidron, the company is co-owned by Phil Neuenschwander and Wendell Horst.
“It’s a big investment for the chopper and all the support equipment — tractors, trailers, packer tractor,” Neuenschwander said.
Harmony Harvesting owns the equipment and rents itself out so farmers don’t have to own all those big-ticket items on their own. Farmers pay for the diesel fuel so Harmony Harvesting’s price doesn’t have to fluctuate as much.
Last fall, they planted rye in many fields that is now coming up and will need cut the first week of May. Corn and hay, which could include alfalfa, grass, or wheat, will get planted and cut or chopped when they’re ready.
Harmony Harvesting’s self-propelled John Deere forage harvester, commonly known as a chopper, will cut the crops into less than ½ inch pieces, small enough for cows to chew and also for it to ferment correctly. As it chops, the corn or hay will get projected into a wagon driven by one of their seven tractors. The drivers have to carefully keep at the same speed as the chopper so the cuttings go into the trailer. Once the wagon is full, an empty wagon will replace it and the full wagon will go to the farm and dump the load in a holding ground. There, their packer tractor will drive over it to compact it and get the air out of it so it can ferment. Eventually, the crop gets stored by the farmers either in a silo or in white plastic tubing until it’s ready to be used for feed.
“We chopped for the neighbors as long as I can remember,” said Neuenschwander, who grew up on farm in Kidron, now called Harmony Farms. He and his brother got their own chopper in 1983 or ’84 and upgraded to a self-propelled chopper in 2000. In 2002, Wendell Horst started working with them, and went full-time with them in 2006. When Neuenschwander’s brother moved to Indiana in 2008, he ran the business on his own for a few years until 2014 when he and Wendell formed Harmony Harvesting.
“I grew up on a farm in Iowa,” said Lloyd Miller, one of the drivers. “We had small tractors and to see a big John Deere tractor going down the road was a big thing. I just always enjoyed being on a tractor.”
His brother, Galen Miller, also drives for Harmony Harvesting.
“For me, it’s the satisfaction of doing the job and doing it well. And looking back and saying, ‘Man, that’s pretty neat,’ to see a nice clean field harvested. It’s not boring. I’ll guarantee you that.”
“We have a lot of fun,” said driver Troy Shaum. “Farming isn’t a get rich quick deal, so it’s not like you’re making tons of money, but you’re having fun and helping people out.”
Harmony Harvesting does field work for farms scattered around the area, from the county line road to Apple Creek. They also service Claredale Farms in Canal Fulton and Farris Farms.
“It looks like it’s easy work, but it’s a mental stress, especially on the roads — you’ve got to pay attention to what the cars and vehicles around you are doing,” Lloyd Miller said.
Neuenschwander said they try to have their edges well lit, to keep their machinery kept up, and to use their turn signals.
“Some people, when they see a big piece of equipment and flashing lights, it’s like they forget that our turn signals mean something.”
Also, it’s possible that they’ll turn into a field where there is no road or obvious intersection, so drivers should use caution. Tractors pulling wagons filled full with crops are heavy and can’t stop quickly.
“The majority of the time, if the vehicle drivers respect us, we’ll respect them,” Shaum said. “If somebody respects us and they’re patient, and we see an opportunity where we can maybe slow down and get off to the side where a group of vehicles can pass, we’ll do that.”